The Bogut Effect: NBL is up, Kings are up and the season is on the line

Player and the coach: Andrew Gaze with Andrew Bogut.Credit:AAP

Of all the dollars, statistics and numbers created by Andrew Bogut's return to the NBL, one makes him most proud: 28.

The NBL is in the midst of a record breaking season with Bogut's Kings alone providing a 35 per cent rise in attendance and a 29 per cent rise in TV viewers with the club's commercial figures are still ticking over with the finals series ongoing.

As a league the NBL set a new attendance record of 714,346 and the league estimates that across the competition traditional media coverage has tripled – and they quietly attribute most of that last measurement to Bogut and his outspoken ways.

But what Bogut has valued most about his homecoming is not something measured commercially.

On the court Bogut won the Andrew Gaze Trophy as NBL MVP and claimed defensive player of the year while his Kings have made the semi-finals for the first time in six seasons.

Still that number 28 was special because it signifies Bogut played all 28 games of the regular season, the last time he did this was playing all 82 games for Milwaukee Bucks in his NBA rookie season in 2005-2006.

Andrew Bogut was one of the biggest NBL signings in years.Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong

Bogut has never liked the way his serious contact injuries saw him wrongly labelled as "injury prone" so as one of the faces of the NBL he wanted to bring his best form to his home league.

"It's one of those things where I wanted to get through a whole season of whatever league I'm in," Bogut said.

"With all the work I've done, injuries I've had and rehab that I've done. It's a pretty special moment for myself individually.

"You can talk about the MVP and those things but something that was even closer to my heart was being able to play every game with the history I've had."

Coming back to the NBL was not about money but about family and what Bogut will do beyond basketball.

Bogut has a small stake in the Kings and can add to it once he stops playing and from the evidence presented by the league he has already boosted the value of both the club and the league.

Numbers are up sizably at the Kings who have struggled to get traction in Sydney for many years.

Despite losing game one of their semi-final series with Melbourne United on Thursday night, the Kings have sold well over 10,000 tickets for Sunday’s must-win game two at Qudos Bank Arena.

They will likely break their own single-game record of 12,050 supporters set against Melbourne in December in Sunday's semi final.

Once Bogut signed on with the Kings several other clubs made serious player upgrades to stay competitive.

This has led to the closest season in NBL history with 15 over-times, more than half the games decided by single digits and Perth Wildcats, Melbourne United and Sydney Kings all ending on 18-10 records at the top of the ladder before percentage decided their placings.

Bogut hasn't paid close attention to the business numbers aside from casual conversations as he remains focused on chasing the title.

"Business wise I haven't looked at anything as formal as crunching the numbers and I'm actually looking forward to seeing some profit-loss sheets at the end of the season," Bogut said.

"I don't concern myself much with it in-season but I'm looking forward to seeing how the season went from that point of view."

What Bogut has been concerned with is pushing "professionalism" to the next level at the Kings, it's improving but not where Bogut wants it to be.

He sees positive moves from teams in hiring more support staff and improving player-conditions but he hopes to see that improve too.

"Professionalism is something that doesn't cost a whole lot of money," Bogut said.

"It's something that needs to be done on a daily basis from the players to the coaches, the physios and the guy selling tickets.

"For the Kings to be a premier franchise in the NBL and the Australian sporting landscape then there is a lot more work to do but it's trending in the right direction."

There was always going to be a major adjustment for Bogut who returned home after 13 years in the US with his wife Jessica and two children.

The homecoming: Andrew Bogut was unveiled as a Sydney Kings recruit last April.Credit:AAP

The NBA life is relentless but it's a circuit that can be hard to come down from.

"I have a young family so it was kind of good to have a somewhat normal work week," Bogut said.

"Generally Monday to Friday or at least Monday to Thursday, you at training then at home and have a day or two off so you can do things away from the court and plan that out.

"Where as in the NBA once that first game starts in pre-season it's full steam ahead until you are knocked out of the playoffs or win the championship. So I’ve enjoyed being home a little more and get back to a little normality."

Having two pre-school aged children helped Bogut stay grounded but flying commercial instead of private jets was another matter.

When the Kings were stranded at Auckland Airport for seven hours on December 8 after a fire forced the airport to be evacuated, Kings and Bogut were live-tweeting their frustrations as Bogut found himself light-years from the charter flights and private jets used in the NBA.

"We had a horror run for four or five straight weeks where we were either heavily delayed or had a flight cancelled from Cairns," Bogut recalled.

"We got stuck in Auckland Airport for six or seven hours. We landed at 5.30pm and were there until 12.30am at night with a game the next day and a game the night before.

"Flying commercially makes you realise how lucky I once was in the NBA and how easy they make it."

If ever there was a time Bogut could have called in his agents and fled back to the NBA, that was the time.

Instead he relished the challenge and so did his teammates as they played New Zealand Breakers the next day and scored a memorable win.

"That's the beauty of playing in the NBL. You have to go with the flow of it all and not let that affect you," Bogut said.

“The Auckland game ended up being really cool as we got a big win over there.”

Bogut has an endgame in mind for his NBL time.

He wants to play in the Australian Boomers FIBA World Cup campaign in China this year and the USA v Boomers lead-up games in Melbourne.

Following that would be a very short off-season then his second season with the Kings which he then hopes will lead into playing with the Boomers at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, a high finish at the World Cup will qualify them for Tokyo.

Anything beyond that remains up in the air.

"That has been the private, two to three year goal I set for myself so I can play in my fourth Olympics," Bogut said.

"If I finish all of that and I still feel pretty fresh then I could possibly give it another year but I don’t anticipate doing a Dave Andersen.

"If I can play an extra year or two and feel good physically or mentally then I'd consider it."

Bogut wants his return to leave a legacy and carve a path to make other NBA Boomers comfortable in finishing their careers at home in the NBL.

He also takes pride in having his two-year old son Luca watching some of his games, like other pre-schoolers his little one hasn't fully grasped the concept of sport just yet but he knows his dad is the centre of attention at game time.

"The beauty of the NBL schedule is that the Sunday afternoon games work perfectly. He doesn't come to night games for obvious reasons," Bogut said.

"He's been to two or three of them. He doesn't really full engage yet but he knows his old man plays basketball.

"It would have been nice for them to see me in the NBA in my prime but I kind of always planned to have kids later in life away from the hustle and bustle of solidifying myself in the NBA.

"Just to have him see me play basketball for a living is pretty cool."

The Kings play Melbourne United in game two of their NBL semi-final series at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday at 2.20pm, if needed a deciding game three will be at Melbourne Arena on Tuesday at 7.50pm.

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